Tuesday, November 8, 2011

River adventure

I have lived on the river for the majority of my life.
I learned to swim in it.
I have fished in it.
I have canoed and kayaked upon it.
I have played in it.
I have put my children in it from their infant days.
I have slept beside it and I have sat and contemplated life from it's banks.

It is, for me, peace and tranquility and a centering force.  When all the world around me is nuts,
the river is there , yesterday, today and tomorrow. 

Several months ago, I attended a class to learn how to monitor streams and rivers for quality of the environment.
I recently got my 'kit' for water testing from a 'friends of the river' group.  Kits were paid for by grant money and were instrumental in many of us being able to volunteer our time to begin to record and monitor on a regular basis.

The requirement is to routinely and regularly test the water according to the specifications of the Izaak Walton League of America Save our Streams Quality Survey.  Using standard scientific method, you sample several different areas (the same area each quarter) and do a count of macroinvertebrates. Having records over time may be invaluable if and when changes occur or the river economy is threatened.

Macroinvertebrates are sorted into Taxa Groups and the water quality is rated depending upon the quantity and variety of 'little critters'.  Group One organisms are not tolerant of pollution and their presence generally signified good water qualities. Group Two organisms can exist in a wide variety of water quality conditions and Group Three organisms are tolerant of pollution thereby signifying by their presence that the water quality is poor.

Group One macroinvertebrates were largely what was found in the class that I took, roughly 1/2 mile downstream from my own property river edge.  We found only a few individuals from Group 2 and no individuals from Group 3.

The last Sunday of October, I talked my main sidekick on the weekends into accompanying me to the river to do my first official volunteer testing.  He volunteered to drive me and while interested, at first was sort of "'ho-hum'  what are you up to now?"

First and foremost, I learned that it was VERY cold for October to go barefoot into the river.

It was achingly cold... and there's really no way around it, unless I had the forethought to have brought some waders with me. (Bet your bottom dollar that I'll do that in January!)

So, I start the sampling and right away, I get a number of very lively specimens.

Now, we aren't exactly going after the tiny fish, but this one was in the net. All counted creatures were released unharmed back to their home location after the count.

And there were numerous macroinvertebrates so small that I had to use the magnifying glass AND my reading glasses.

 A take away tidbit is that if you find snails, you can easily determine if they're indicators of clean water, or poor quality.  By holding the snail oriented up and down, if the operculum opens 'right facing', then it is a 'clean water' indicator.

A bit of an amusing observation is that as the organisms were sorted into the trays as they sat in the sunshine, and the water became warmer than the temperature of the river, they became much more active.

Overall, I was happy to determine that my little stretch of the river had excellent indications of being healthy and clean. Wetland conservation and sustainability is important now and for our future.

And by the time I was done, I had not only a willing participant sidekick, but an excited one who wants to see how the future surveys go.  I had also determined that 4 hands were necessary and 6 would have been ideal!

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